Walking out is awesome and totally a good idea

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, more satisfying than handing in your notice.

Yes there is: resigning on the spot.

Resigning on the spot and reciting that speech that you’ve been rehearsing in your head for years. The one so full of righteous invective that your boss withers before your very eyes weakly calling

“I’m melting I’m melting” ((or possibly you drop a house on them))

Resigning, walking out and then refusing to come back when they beg you. Even when they throw themselves under the wheels of your car.

Or bicycle.

Many of us dream of leaving our jobs.

A lot of us have had tearful conversations with our partners in which the idea is explored and rejected.

Because you can’t just walk out of your job now can you?

Can you?

No. No you can’t ((obviously you can))

Let ,me really clear here there are very few circumstances under which it is a sensible idea to just quit

  • you have another job ((getting a job really is failing at freelancing))
  • you have won the lottery ((buying lottery tickets is not an acceptable business plan))
  • you are independently wealthy ((you aren’t for more on this see Planning is boring and for wimps))

Some people who go freelance do not just walk out of their jobs. They approach their employer and discuss their plans.

“I’m not happy in my work”

they say

“And I’m planning to go freelance.”

Then, while their employer reels in shock they follow up with

“Obviously I could just hand in my notice but I thought you might like to discuss ways in which I can stay involved with this shower for a bit longer”.

Maybe they reduce their hours and start freelancing part time with the blessing of their employer.

Maybe their employer becomes their first client.


They don’t know the unbridled panic and despair that comes of suddenly having to fill five days a week with freelance work from a standing start ((and without a plan obv)).

Money isn’t everything sounds better when you have money

From time to time you will run into those who went before. They jumped into the Rubicon ((I appreciate that Ceasar actually crossed the Rubicon but I like to mix my metaphors. Or is it allusions?)) as it were. And when you see them they look relaxed. They’ve lost weight. They dress casually. And they say things like

“It is brilliant working for yourself”.

“It is without doubt the best decision I ever made”.

“Business is great. Actually I just finished a massive project. Taking a couple of weeks off to unwind. That’s why I’m in the pub at 2 in the afternoon. With a tan. Nursing a pint”.

Which all seems to add compelling weight to the argument that you too should jump in.

But I have to tell you that they are probably not telling the truth.

In fact they are almost certainly not telling you the truth.

Does that shock you?

That old colleagues, people you respect, people you like, people who went through the Brentford merger with you and survived, should lie to your face. It is intolerable.

I’m probably making it up.

I’m not making it up. Though on the plus side they may not be lying in the conventional sense. What is truth? as someone asked (( it was Pilate obv. Just double checking this I looked up the quote online and was struck, once again my the magnificence of the language in the King James version. Not germane to this blog, controversial or amusing but true )).

Understand them. Sympathise with them. Empathise with them.

Pity them.

Leaving a real-life job is, as you are about to find out, a shock in the proper sense. It is dislocating in ways that you do not expect. You miss the regular day to day contact with other human beings. You miss the shared jokes: the water-cooler moments.

You miss being told what to do.

And you miss the money.

“Money isn’t everything” turns out to be much more attractive as a philosophy when you actually have money. And when you have a reasonable expectation that there will be more money at the same time next month.

Take these things away and you find that money turns out to represent a much bigger proportion of everything than you had previously believed.

And this prompts in many people a process rather like grieving.

The freelancer, on finding that the world outside their organisation is not as perfect as they had imagined, becomes angry. Depending on their dysfunction they could become angry at themselves for walking out of their job without a proper plan or angry at others: at their evil ex-boss who held them back or at the stupidity of potential clients ((If the latter is your dysfunction, you’re going to love “Your customers are idiots” if and when I get round to writing it)).

Quickly following upon the anger is despair. How could they have been so stupid? They walked out on a regular paycheck, a pension, and a purpose. They will never get another contract. Their children will starve. They will be evicted. Their life is ruined.

Despair quickly turns to denial. Everything is fine, just fine. Dandy even. Fine and dandy ((it’s like a hard candy Christmas but that’s taking us back to despair again)). Great. Best decision I ever made.

And it’s very easy to be trapped in a vicious circle where you spiral round and round anger despair and denial.

This is the probably the state that you find your ex-colleagues in.

It is an excellent way to fail at freelancing.


Just walk out of your job

I always wanted to work for myself. Back in the day when I was trying to be a scientist (really) I talked about setting up a consultancy with my mate Dave.

Actually that would be have been quite a good idea. Dave had many of the right qualities for someone who wants to make a success running their own business.

I do not.

I did run a small business with someone. Like many things in my life it was an unusual businesses proposition. Essentially a global energy giant wrote us a large cheque once a year and then we went around making them feel bad about it. When the attraction of this palled for them we wound the company up and laid a bunch of people off. It was an experience I found very difficult and it put me off employing people.

Running a company is very different to working for yourself. It’s a social act for a start. Other people are involved in a shared enterprise. Even if you are the boss you are part of something larger than yourself.

You are “Ben Proctor from X” ((You probably won’t be “Ben Proctor” from anywhere but you get the general point. If you are Ben Proctor let me say “howdy”. I would say “what a coincidence” but let’s face it you probably picked this blog because of the name of the author. If not I apologise. Great name buddy!)) rather than “Ben Proctor the slightly awkward” There are people to argue with about the milk rota, to shout at, to have illicit affairs with ((I’m just floating options here, not speaking from experience)).

So what was it that drew me to self employment?

I never liked doing what I was told. I do not like having a boss (even though I have had some great bosses over the years).

I do not like obeying an arbitrary set of rules or undertaking tasks that I believe will not help, are not well thought out or will get me covered in jam I really hate punching the clock or just being at my desk because it is the time when people have to be at their desks.

Anyway in my head freelancing is associated with freedom, with throwing off the shackles of bureaucracy, with sticking it to the man.

So when my job started to get tough in 2008 naturally I began to think about going it alone.

I was working in local government. I had rather enjoyed my work but we were in the throes of being merged with other councils. I didn’t fancy my chances in the new council. There was nothing interesting to do in the old council ((Nothing interesting for a man of my temperament. My colleagues were fully engaged in the fields of protecting vulnerable people, supporting the economy and looking after the environment.)). I began to float around the offices pale and wan. I would sigh heavily. Ennui ensued.

My colleagues, of course, faced similar challenges and they dealt with them in three main ways
1. Getting on with it. Doing the job they were paid to do to the best of their ability and waiting to see what turned up.
2. Applying for other, better jobs in other, better places.
3. Drinking heavily.

Freedom called to me from the landing.

And there was the possibility of getting a dog ((My leaving gift was a dog basket. Dogs and their strong link to failing at freelancing might be something we return to)).